Driver Who Injured Woman on Manhattan Sidewalk Pleads to Two Felonies

Update: Tiffany Murdaugh was sentenced to two to six years in prison.

A woman who hit a pedestrian on a Lower Manhattan sidewalk and left the scene pled guilty to two felony charges this week.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

On April 13, 2015, Tiffany Murdaugh drove her Dodge Challenger over the curb on Beekman Street near William Street, striking Heather Hensl and nearly hitting a second woman and two children as she sped down the sidewalk.

The crash happened outside Spruce Street School. Parents who have kids at the school told DNAinfo motorists often use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

“I just saw this woman somersaulting in the air and then she landed on the sidewalk,” a witness told DNAinfo. “[Murdaugh] drove on the sidewalk as if it was a lane. So fast that I turned my head and I didn’t see the car.”

Hensl, then 37, sustained a broken knee and a head laceration.

Murdaugh did not stop. Though police had video evidence, NYPD hesitated to file charges, in part because Murdaugh lived out of state.

A few weeks after the crash, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance charged Murdaugh with two counts of assault, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene. On Wednesday Murdaugh pled guilty to assault and reckless endangerment charges, both class D felonies, according to Vance’s office.

“This defendant careened onto a sidewalk near an elementary school at 8 o’clock in the morning on a school day,” Vance said in a statement. “It is a miracle that no one else was hurt by her recklessness. This driver not only narrowly missed a mother and her two young children, she seriously wounded a woman who had to endure months of physical therapy to rehabilitate her leg. I hope this conviction serves to deter reckless and illegal driving that endangers our City’s residents.”

It is rare for a motorist to be convicted of felony charges for injuring a New York City pedestrian, even in cases where the driver leaves the scene. The Vance press release said investigators relied on video and witness accounts to help make the case.

Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Murdaugh is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

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